In the harbour


1. Dildo

“Police posing with your dildo during a raid does not a Charter of Rights and Freedoms violation make,” reports the Chronicle Herald’s Jessica Flower:

Michael David Hilchey and Jocelyn Leanne Judith Hilchey were arrested Feb. 7, 2014, and their home was raided by law enforcement officers with a search warrant. They were charged with possession of marijuana and cocaine for the purpose of trafficking

The couple alleged that Halifax Regional Police and RCMP officers violated their charter rights during the raid by taking pictures with Jocelyn Hilchey’s dildo and posing with Michael Hilchey’s clothing with the purpose of humiliating them.

Judge Anne Derrick ruled against the couple’s application.

2. Emma Van Rooyen

Emma Van Rooyen
Emma Van Rooyen

Kings County councillor Emma Van Rooyen abruptly resigned at last night’s meeting of the council, delivering a letter that said in part:

During my time on council, some senior councillors have often referred to politics as “blood sport”. In my experience this metaphor has been used to excuse a litany of manipulative and irresponsible behavior, including back-room decision making, aggression in in-camera meetings, block voting, and personal vendettas. These behaviors contribute to an unhealthy working environment, but most importantly these behaviors undermine council’s ability to engage in legitimate debate, discussion and responsible decision making.


In my opinion when winning becomes the primary focus (as it has for this council) council’s decision making process is reduced to a short check list of minimum requirements. The spectrum of what is possible is collapsed to include only what is required to legitimize a decision. In practice, fulfilling only the minimum requirements means inadequate, tokenistic citizen engagement, secrecy, and limited public debate. In my opinion the citizens of Kings County deserve transparent, inclusive and accountable government, conditions I do not believe possible under council’s current leadership.


When I made the decision to run I knew there would be plenty of compromise, debate and disagreement amongst councillors. I was prepared to compromise, to build consensus and find middle ground. I knew decisions would be made that would not meet what I believed to be the ideal outcome. In short I was idealistic, but also, I believed, realistic about the experiences I would have in council chambers. In my experience, in my early days on council there were attempts made at legitimate debate and some compromises were made. However more recently, in my opinion, inter-personal relationships and working conditions in council have deteriorated to the point that any honest attempts to include minority opinions or seek compromise have been abandoned.

This is why I am resigning my position. Under the current leadership I no longer think there is a willingness within council to find compromise, or any opportunity for me to contribute to the betterment of Kings County through my participation on Kings County Council. 

(Read the entire letter here.)

Continually surrounded by ruggedly handsome sailors, the 1958 Princess Cornwallis was as close to virginal as they could find in the Annapolis Valley. Photo:
Continually surrounded by ruggedly handsome sailors, the 1958 Princess Cornwallis was as close to virginal as they could find in the Annapolis Valley. Photo:

Van Rooyen butted heads last year with Kings County traditionalism when she took on the restrictive rules for who could become “regent” — aka princess — of the annual Apple Blossom Festival — in essence, the competition policed candidates’ sexuality. Reported the Kings County News:

Van Rooyen said the specific rules surrounding the leadership competition that she finds troubling include the requirement of a high school level of education or the equivalent certification; women may not participate if they have children and they can’t be pregnant at the time of the competition; women can’t currently be or ever have been married; and the competition is open to females only and requires a birth certificate to be submitted in order to compete.

Van Rooyen said this rule precludes anyone who was not born female from participating. Her concern is not restricted to the fact that young men can’t take part, but that any young person who is transgender or any other gender identity can’t participate.

“I respect how important the traditions of the competition are to some residents; however, I think it is time to meld those existing traditions with new ones that celebrate all of our young leaders inclusively,” Van Rooyen said.

3. Roundabout art

Yesterday, after I complained about the lack of public art at the new roundabouts, city spokesperson Jennifer Stairs sent me the following email:

There is both community art and public art planned for the redesign project, however, it won’t be in the centre of the roundabouts. We felt that larger art installations in the middle of the roundabout could distract drivers and may also encourage pedestrians to cross into the centre of the roundabout (where they should never be). We discussed the art components extensively during the public engagement and the feedback we got was that people would like to see art incorporated into the adjoining pedestrian plazas that we’re building on the Halifax Common — also part of the redesign.

Just last week we chose the community artists who will be doing those art installations….

The artists are just starting to meet with the community to discuss their ideas. The plan has always been to install the art in September, after the roundabout is complete and the pedestrian plazas are constructed.

As well, there will be a public art component involving Kim Thompson, who operates The Deanery Project in Ship Harbour, a non-profit cooperative focused on the environment, youth and community, natural building and the arts. That will involve four of the largest trees that came down during construction being turned into custom benches in the new green space that will be created on the Common. This was a popular idea with residents when it was suggested as an option during the public engagement sessions.

Well, that’s good news. I can’t be on top of everything, so missed the art thing completely. (Stairs points me to past press releases here and here.) But I disagree that art can’t be in the middle of the roundabouts — there are hundreds of thousands of examples of art in the middle of roundabouts throughout Europe, and no one’s the worse for it.

I suggest we put a eight-storey statue of Raymond Taavel, arms outstretched, in the middle of the Cogswell Roundabout.


1. Budget

The province released the financials for the last fiscal year (ending March 31) yesterday, and former NDP Finance Minister Graham Steele gives his assessment, which is worth reading in full, then concludes:

I don’t mean to undersell what the Liberals have accomplished. Basically they’re “on track”. That’s a message any finance minister would be happy with. They’re roughly where they expected to be. That doesn’t happen by accident. It’s no great achievement, but it’s not nothing. And it’s enough to get people to shrug their shoulders, say “Sounds okay to me”, and turn back to their barbecues.

When you’re the finance minister, you want people at their barbecues, not marching around Province House.

Here’s the problem: the McNeil government hasn’t really come to terms yet with the “structural deficit”. It’s real, and it’s an economic killer. The “structural deficit” is deficit that you’re left with even when the economy is fully recovered. It’s a permanent mismatch between in-come and out-go.

There is one issue that’s going to dominate the next year: contract negotiations. Every major contract is up for re-negotiation: doctors, teachers, health-care workers, civil servants, everybody. Since wages are by far the largest component of the provincial budget, these negotiations will dictate whether the province’s finances are sustainable or not.

All the controversial but necessary stuff the McNeil government did in its first year—particularly re-organizing health-care unions and passing essential services legislation—was merely table-setting for the negotiations.

These negotiations will dominate the attention of government insiders over the next year. Unfortunately, it will happen behind closed doors. We’ll catch only glimpses. 

Right now the Liberal government is coasting financially. It’s the negotiations over the next year that will tell us whether they’ve put the province’s finances back on a sustainable track.

I don’t agree with this. We can easily balance budgets and give reasonable cost of living raises to unionized employees by simply increasing the tax rate on the richest Nova Scotians and on corporations to 1970s’ levels. Regardless, I keep hearing that the McNeil government is going to try to impose a three-year wage freeze on all the unions. If so, last year’s nurses’ battle will seem like a walk in the park — the provincial political scene is about to explode.

2. Cranky letter of the day

People aren’t sufficiently cranky today, sorry.


No public meetings.

Fred Morley

The new Department of Business will make us all rich, starting with Fred Morley.
The new Department of Business will make us all rich, starting with Fred Morley.

Halifax’s most successful C student, Fred Morley, has been hired on by the new Department of Business, at $165,000 a year. See, already the department is making Nova Scotians richer.


Tourism Nova Scotia has issued a Request For Proposal seeking “marketing partners who will create an innovative and integrated approach to meet TNS’s primary objective of doubling tourism revenues in ten years.”:

The selected marketing partner(s) will understand the science of big data and employ disruptive tactics to deliver compelling brand experiences to new markets. Evidence-based, process-driven and goal-focused, TNS’s partner(s) will have the digital expertise needed to interpret data into meaningful insights to deliver on the stated outcomes.

[emphasis added just because it’s so damn funny]

I’m still waiting for someone to say what will happen if tourism revenues aren’t doubled in 10 years. Do we throw Ben Cowan-Dewar to the fishes? Build a Father Canada? Paint Province House in tartan?

Three guesses for which Liberal-connected PR firm will win the RFP.

Trade Centre Limited

With yesterday’s release of the 2014-15 fiscal statements, we learn that Trade Centre Limited ran a $2,445,368 deficit last year — and that comes after $2,495,680 in transfers from the city ($1,270,680) and provincial ($1,225,000) governments.

Of the transferred money, $1,107,283 was used to “market” the new convention centre while $127,500 was “to prepare to operate” the new convention centre. An additional $332,500 was for new event scheduling software TCL says it needs for the new convention centre.

Another $200,000 of the transferred money was “maintenance expenditures related to Exhibition Park,” and yesterday the province announced it is closing Exhibition Park:

With costs estimated at $3 million for needed repairs to the roof and electrical, and another $6 million for upgrades, government will instead examine transferring the site.

Litter blows around grounds at Exhibition Park. Photo: Stephen Archibald
Litter blows around grounds at Exhibition Park. Photo: Stephen Archibald

Scuttling Exhibition Park has been the goal for some time — which is maybe why they never bothered to pick up the garbage blowing around the place — and follows the quiet abandonment of the “trade centre” part of Trade Centre Limited, which is being rebranded Halifax Convention Centre.

That “world trade centre” thing relates to the New York-based World Trade Centre Association that TCL joined way back in 1982. TCL paid annual dues to the WTCA to call the Halifax facility the “World Trade and Convention Centre.” In return, TCL would join WTCA-organized business trips around the world, arranging for Nova Scotia business people to participate in the junkets, supposedly with the idea that this would bring business and prosperity forever, amen, to Nova Scotia. Three or four years ago, the business junket part of the arrangement was taken over by Nova Scotia Business, Inc, but TCL has continued to pay the annual dues to WTCA solely in order to continue to call its building the World Trade and Convention Centre.

I digress. Even with the marketing and “preparing to operate” the new convention centre, along with the new software and the Exhibition Park bailout, that still leaves $728,397 in government transfers to TCL that aren’t detailed in the financial report.

Fred MacGillivray's life is worth precisely $814,200.
Fred MacGillivray’s life is worth precisely $814,200.
Fred MacGillivray’s life is worth precisely $814,200.

Oh, TCL is still on the hooks for former president Fred MacGillivray’s superpension. MacGillivray doesn’t actually do any work, but he was paid $55,000 last year, over and above the pension that every provincial employee receives, just because he was that good. The superpension is now valued at $814,200 — I’m not sure, but if I did the math right, I think that means TCL expects MacGillivray to die on Jan 23, 2029. When TCL gets magically transformed into the HCC, the city takes half ownership of the organization, and therefore half ownership of MacGillivray’s superpension costs. I have no idea why the city should be on the hook for $407,100 for an employee hired by the province and given a superpension (retroactively) by the provincial cabinet; I’ve raised the issue repeatedly to Mayor Mike Savage, to former city Finance Director Greg Keefe, and to anyone else who would listen, but no one will give me a reasonable explanation.

For what it’s worth, the current TCL president, Scott Ferguson, was paid $183,182 last year. Other TCL execs on the sunshine list include Carrie Cussons ($166,848), Robert Kanchuk ($103,688), Robert Logan ($125,203), Shelly Parsons ($103,574), and Greg Smith ($101,942). I expect when the new convention centre opens they’ll all get hefty raises because, ya know, it’s a bigger facility and they’re just that good.

In the harbour

The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:25am Friday. Map:
The seas around Nova Scotia, 8:25am Friday. Map:

Orchid Ace, car carrier, Bremerhaven, Germany to Autoport, then sails to sea
Vera D, container ship, Lisbon, Portugal to Pier 42
New England, oil tanker, Saint John to Imperial Oil
Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro cargo, St. John’s to HalTerm

APL Coral sails to sea
Nolhanava sails to Saint-Pierre

The cruise ship Queen Mary 2 will be in port tomorrow.


As usual on Saturdays, El Jones will take over Morning File duties tomorrow. Monday is some sort of pretend holiday (Natal Day???), so I’m taking the day off. See you Tuesday.

Tim Bousquet is the editor and publisher of the Halifax Examiner. Twitter @Tim_Bousquet Mastodon

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  1. I don’t know what impact “Trade Shows” have on muni or provincial coffers, but having gone to a few shows at the exhibition park, they must add something. The parking lot always seems packed, tons of local and national vendors showing thier wares. There is not one place in this area big enough to host one of these shows so I guess that business sector takes the hit. Taxes will pay for our new shiny convention centre so is a space to host this type of show/events equally deserving of tax payer support? Perhaps a combo “world class” stadium/Trade show facility is the answer.

  2. But, I have to call bullshit on the plan for public art near the roundabouts. *Building* a pedestrian *plaza* in the Common? It is a flat field with multiple paved paths already. Does pedestrianism really need more built stuff in this shrinking urban green space? And wooden benches will be the art? I guess as long as you attach the words youth and environment and nonprofit and community, folks will be shy to criticize. And am I the only one who finds the fact that the benches (oops, Art) will be made from *some* of the *largest* trees felled to build stuff on the Common is not neato but ironically sad?

  3. The Herald has a councillor claiming Ms van Rooyen is off to university in September.
    She must have known a by-election is required and then another election in October 2016.
    The most important points she makes are : no minutes of in camera meetings and calling meetings at short notice, the transgender issue is minor compared with the more substantial claims made by her and two other female councillors.

  4. Public-sector wages should increase with the cost of living, but jacking taxes up to 1970s rates on high income earners is not the way to do it.

    Consider: the province already has the country’s second-highest tax rate for high-income earners (21% over $150,000). Only Quebec is higher, at 25.75% over $100,000–and Quebec also has the largest per-capita provincial debt load in the country, far higher than Nova Scotia’s, so it certainly hasn’t made balancing their budget any easier.

    I’m pro-tax, but there is a limit. The combined Federal-Provincial marginal tax rate for the highest income earners is 48% of income in Nova Scotia. In 1970 it was 82%. The highest corporate tax rate in 1970 was 53.4%. Today it’s 31%. Regardless of whether we should return to this (we shouldn’t), we won’t, because the global and North American political context currently makes it completely impossible. Nova Scotia is currently a slight outlier, with slightly higher tax rates than most other provinces. I don’t believe that people move away due to a few percentage points in the tax rate.

    But if we suddenly jacked everything up to ’70s levels, we’d become a complete economic pariah. It’d be a disaster.

    1. At the provincial level, there is only so much we can do about taxing large businesses such as manufacturing or taxing high-income individuals. The mobility of both these groups means there is a real economic analysis that needs to be made – how high can you raise rates before you drive people away and impact the size of the tax base, ending up with less revenue? Now, I’m no Laffer curve extremist: I do not believe that cutting rates at this point will magically raise the tax base like a certain Kansas governor…but there is a point at which I would move away because of a tax burden, since I have some transferrable skills and such. And there is a tax rate at which Michelin would leave. And Lockheed. And RBC.

      The missing piece here is the rates on small business dividend income. Politically this group is thought of as a bunch of independent bookstore owners, cat cafe proprietors, and scrappy leftist online blog editors. They’re really the owners of professional practices, towing companies, electrical parts distributors and engineering firms.

      Earn $100,000 in income as a controller for Michelin while your spouse is home with the kids – pay an average tax rate of 30%

      Earn $100,000 at your small accounting practice – pay a 3% small business tax rate and then pay you and the spouse $50,000 in dividends – each pay 11% on that income. All in, less than half the taxes of the employed person. Pay the kids their college money through the dividends and you’re even better off.

      These small businesses are the opportunity. They are the people making money off the investments governments make in attracting the big corporations. Service providers – whether professionals like dentists and accountants, or tow-truck owners and house builders, are locked into NS. They are a lot less likely relocate. And the competition means that higher tax costs don’t flow to customers, they come out of the owners pockets. “Small” business owners are reaping the benefits of a part of the tax system that is not progressive enough at all.

      The issue, of course, is that these are the most well-connected and politically important people at the provincial level. Farmers and lawyers in the Annapolis valley are certainly not interested in having their MLA take money from them to pay for crumbling infrastructure and health care wages in Halifax.

      1. Small businesses also include franchises. When governments promise to help small business, it sounds like they are helping independent retailers, but they are really helping the local branches of national and international chains.

        When it comes to public sector wages, folks spend a lot of time complaining about front line employees who get things done for $35 K, and say they don’t deserve raises because they are apparently overpaid; but don’t seem to have a problem with incompetent senior bureaucrats who are pulling in over $100 K+ and letting projects go millions over budget.